As someone who loves watching YouTube videos of buildings being demolished, I couldn’t be more excited for tonight’s historic debate. It feels as though I’m a citizen of Pompeii who gets to watch a live feed of the lava before it rolls into the living room, with Wolf Blitzer offering commentary on the lethal ooze. And thanks to Donald Trump’s most recent scandal — the one about his attempts to seduce women by picking them up like bowling balls—we now approach this debate wondering if a viable presidential candidate of the United States is going to say “pussy” on live television!
And while Trump is totally fucked tonight, it doesn’t change my prevailing feeling about him. If you’ve ever been to an especially bad open mic night — the kind where people you feel obligated to follow on Twitter congregate in the back room of a dank bar at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday to yell the news at each other — you might’ve picked up on it, too.
A few years ago, I was at this type of “comedy night” at an overpriced Irish pub in downtown L.A., when the unthinkable happened: a non-comic walked in and sat down — we could tell he wasn’t a comedian, because he was wearing a sports jersey. This man was visibly drunk, swaying at his table and nodding his head. He then proceeded to heckle the shit out of every comic that got up onstage. Unintelligible shit that just derailed everything. He was so loud and unruly that the entire show became about him. Each comedian who got up on stage tried to take him down with a well-crafted zinger, and each comedian failed. This guy would just talk right over you.
On the rare occasion that someone got a word in on him, he wouldn’t even absorb it. There was no way you could go lower than the guy who made it his business to heckle a stage full of pathetic soft-bodied stand-ups. That’s when the host had a brilliant idea, and played to the heckler’s narcissism. “It seems like you really wanna talk, buddy. So come on, go on up there and talk.” He gave the man an offer he couldn’t refuse, a chance to be the real center of attention. Of course, the balance of power completely shifted. Now out of the safety of the crowd, he flopped around the stage like a dying fish. A heckler simply cannot ever become a comedian. It takes too much work, too much preparation.
To a degree, Hillary’s not-so-spectacular performance at the last debate could be chalked up to being confronted with such a belligerent amateur. If you’ve ever been in a fight with someone who has an IQ score 50 points lower than yours, whatever comebacks you can muster usually fall flat when confronted with such a staunch level of blustering stupidity.
What you will see tonight is what Trump has been all along: an amateur. Someone who can get a laugh out of Billy Bush and a round of applause from a crowd of people who believe that Michelle Obama is a man. But also someone who is incapable of proving himself to a majority of voting Americans that he’s anything other than a very rich heckler. He heckled his way through the primaries from the safety of the crowd to great effect. In fact, we actually owe him a debt of gratitude for his thorough steamrolling of an entire generation of GOP candidates.
But once that spotlight narrowed, and it was only him, it was over. We will still watch tonight, because we love a great show, but it’s over. When you see him flail up there on that stage, you’re watching something that every comedian in this country’s seen countless times. You’re watching an amateur bomb.